Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, Chapter One
Last night I dreamed I dissected Lauren Wood in Earth Sciences class. She was wearing her blue and white cheerleader outfit, the pleated skirt fanned out and the sweater cut right down the middle. She lay there, unmoving, staring straight up at the ceiling tiles. She was annoyed. I could tell from the way her jaw thrust forward and her lips pressed together in a thin line. I opened up her chest, peeling her ribs back like a half-opened Christmas present, and the entire class leaned in to get a good look.
“As I suspected,” I declared, “no heart.” I pointed with my scalpel to the chest cavity, where nothing but a black lump of coal squatted in the lipstick-red center. The class leaned back with a sigh, equally appalled and fascinated. The mysterious inner workings of Lauren Wood exposed for all to see.
“Earth to Helen.”
My Earth Sciences teacher, Mr. Porto, was staring at me, waiting for an answer. Someone behind me snickered. I hadn’t heard the question. I had been reliving my dream from last night and must have spaced out. I looked at my desk in case the answer was there, but the only thing on my page was a doodle of an anatomically correct heart. I didn’t think Mr. Porto would be impressed with my artwork at this particular moment. I prayed for time to speed up and make the bell ring, but the clock kept on ticking one second at a time.
“People, I know vacation begins in a few days, but at the moment you still need to worry more about your final exam than about your summer plans. Can anyone else list for me the six kingdoms of the scientific classification system?” Mr. Porto asked.
He looked around the room for a victim. I slouched down in my seat and attempted to resume my train of thought and natural state of invisibility.
Before the incident there hadn’t been a single moment of my life without Lauren in it. We were born in the same hospital, her the day before me. They placed us side by side in the nursery, our first sleepover. Helen Worthington right next to Lauren Wood. Even alphabetically, Lauren came before me. Lauren was in every one of my birthday photos—from age one, when she has her fist buried in my cake, to fourteen when we are both posing supermodel style for the camera, Lauren’s outstretched arm covering part of my face. Looking back, I can see how she always had to be front and center.
Speaking of needing to be front and center, Carrie Edwards must have been running for star biology student. She waved her arm like she was flagging down traffic until Mr. Porto called on her.
“Eubacteria, arche bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, and animals,” Carrie spouted off. She paused as if she expected applause. I drew a cartoon of a cheerleader on my paper. I gave her a giant mouth. My eyes slid back to the clock and watched it tick over the final seconds. The bell rang out, and everyone stood up together and jostled toward the door.
“Be sure to look over chapter twenty-two before the exam! I don’t want to hear anyone saying they didn’t know they were supposed to know the material. Consider this your last warning,” Mr. Porto yelled to everyone’s back. The volume in the hallway seemed even louder than usual. Everyone was excited to see the year come to an end. Next year we would be seniors, on top of the world. I slipped through the hallway by myself. A few people nodded in my direction, but nobody said anything to me.
It had been the end of the school year when it happened three years ago, only a few days after my fourteenth birthday. Sometimes I look at the photo from the party to see if I can find any clues. Lauren and I are both smiling. My smile is easy to explain—I didn’t know what was coming—but Lauren would have known. She had already put pieces of her plan into action, but there isn’t a sign of regret on her face. No hesitation at all, just her wide smile. I suppose she expected me to be grateful that she let me have my birthday before she brought the world crashing down around me. It was the least she could do. After all, what are friends for?
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